Saturday, September 26, 2015

Embraced By God

On Wednesday afternoon while sitting outside enjoying the first day of Fall, I was awed by all the beauty. Clouds varied and changing, sun brightly shining, blue sky, wind chimes making lovely music-  all of it made me want to stay out there taking in the goodness.

Our prompt for #wholemama this week is the word embrace. When I was out there relaxing and thinking and taking pictures, I thought of our wonderful God and how He takes care of me. With all that beauty and energy of nature surrounding me I got a sense of being held in His embrace. If He can create the world, hold it all it place, control the wind and storms, then surely He is able to meet my needs.

I'm good at embracing others, making them feel welcome, comforting and encouraging them when they are down, but sometimes forget that I need someone to do the same for me. Lately I feel like my emotions have been all over the place. I've felt intense joy, contentment, expectancy, hope and love, but also hurt, sorrow, uncertainty, anger, and negative thoughts trying to pull me down. 

God notices and provides exactly what I need through the embraces of those who love me. 

I think of the little arms of my grandchildren reaching up to hug my neck, their sometimes slobbery kisses, their welcoming smiles and their happy shouts when we visit. Even though my children are grown and most aren't living with me, they can be counted on to love and encourage. I also have great friends who cheer me on. Most importantly, God has given me a wonderful husband who knows how to support and encourage no matter what I may be going through. 

(from an earlier trip to Gatlinburg, TN)

On Thursday, he wanted me to go with him to beautiful Chattooga Belle Farm in Long Creek, South Carolina, to get some apples and have lunch. I almost didn't go because I was so tired, but it turned out to be refreshing and just what I needed to lift my spirits. During the hour long drive, he listened while I shared with him some things that had been bothering me. He was very patient, and together we talked about ways to address some of the issues. 

I think I've discovered anew what a gem I have in this husband of mine. 

We had a lovely lunch with food mostly grown right there on the farm. Our table was outside and we enjoyed a panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Some people may think being a Christian takes away all your fun and stifles creativity, but I've not found that to be true. Far from being restrictive and dull, my relationship with God gives me confidence and freedom to branch out and discover new interests. I know I will make mistakes, but I also know I can learn from them. 

My mistakes don't define me. 

In years passed I've often been afraid to try something new, because I didn't want to fail. I only wanted to do what I thought I could do well. Now I am learning not to worry so much and to embrace new challenges. For instance, just this week I made a short video sharing a small part of what I was feeling outside that first day of Autumn. It's not professional by any means but gave me a sense of accomplishment, because I was willing to try. Here it is, in case you missed it:

Normally I would have been nervous about putting it out there for anyone to see, but I actually felt a bit of excitement. I wasn't worried about what others might think.  A year ago it would have terrified me to do something like that. My participation in groups on and offline has shown me that I do have a voice and there is a place for me to use it. God has given each of us unique desires and talents in order to share them right where we are.

We all have a story to tell that can encourage and help to empower others.

Maybe our words are just the embrace someone needs to help them realize they are not alone, that others struggle the same as they. Many people are feeling hurt, depressed, or generally out of sorts and need someone to give a smile, sit with them or be a good listener when they need to talk. If it's a close friend, maybe what they need is a good hug to make them feel better able to go out and meet their day. I'm thankful for people who are willing to be vulnerable and to share their lives with me. 

It's almost like a warm embrace knowing that we are in this life together.

I'm linking up with these lovely blogs:
#wholemama hosted by Erika Shirk 
Weekend Whispers hosted by Barbie Swihart
Lisha Epperson's #GiveMeGrace
Janis Cox with Sunday Stillness
Spiritual Sundays

Monday, September 21, 2015

Music: A Way to Calm, Cheer or Energize Your Soul

My friend Lisha who hosts the #GiveMeGrace linkup has written about how music soothes and helps to bring healing to her soul. She also shared a few links to music that has recently inspired her and asked us to tell about the music that speaks to us.

Music can be found almost everywhere in many different forms, even in nature.

There is music in the breeze, the songs of birds, and also the frogs and bugs that sound off in the evenings. Maybe that is why I enjoy being outdoors so much. I am awed by the beauty and the different melodies that waft along calling me to listen and wonder.

I love this view from my front porch! 

The sky is always there, but ever changing. The hardwood trees will soon have colors of red, yellow or orange while the evergreens provide a backdrop with their varying shades of green. In Isaiah 55:12 we read, "...the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands." Interesting, isn't it?

My view changes somewhat with each season, yet still is the same hillside full of trees. 

Our lives are kind of like that, changing as we live out our days, yet our unique self, the original one created by God in His image, is still the same unique self. 

We have likes and dislikes which may or may not change. We have talents and gifts to be developed. We were made for community and thrive most when we work together. We are also emotional beings, and many of us are drawn to music, because it has a way of reaching deep within us. 

Music can soothe, encourage, excite, give energy and minister to our souls.

Because I love making music and listening to it I decided to follow Lisha's lead and share a little of the music that speaks to me.

Downhere has a variety of music that always encourages me. Here is one of my favorites:  

When I need cheering up Louis Armstrong's “What a Wonderful World” always brings a smile to my face. 

Gungor is a husband/wife team that creates hauntingly beautiful and contemplative music along with songs full of energy. This one gives me chills: "Let There Be" 

Cliff Richard is a British pop singer who has been around a very long time, but to me his music is fun. It's hard to choose just one but here's one I like: "A Little in Love"

Ken Medema, a blind singer/pianist/composer has lot of songs and musical stories. Being a pianist myself, I have often been inspired by listening to Ken. One of my favorites is "Is There a Place For Dreaming?" 

I hope you enjoy the music. Maybe you'll even find some new favorites of your own!

I'm linking this with #GiveMeGrace, #SundayStillness and Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Discovering Hidden and New Desires: A Birth of Sorts?

The prompt this week for the #wholemama linkup is the word birth. I began thinking about birth experiences and came up with some thoughts from the perspectives of both the mother and the child.

From the perspective of the mother:
  • Birth is a process starting with the beginnings of labor pains.
  • Birth is hard work – leaning to breathe and relax with contractions – and finally to push with all the strength you can muster.
  • Birth involves stretching and softening and a bursting forth of new life.

From the perspective of the baby:
  • Birth can be a wild ride leaving the comfort and security of the mother's womb.
  • Moving with the contractions until the final push into a world of bright lights, unfamiliar noises and general insecurity.
  • Being put into the mother's arms and hearing her voice speak soothing words granting security once more.

Birth can be analogous to new experiences.
  • Stepping out of places where you are comfortable. 
  • Going into new territory where you may feel a bit insecure and unsure of yourself.
  • The process can be quite traumatic, exciting and thrilling, or ordinary.
  • Eventually we become more secure in the new environment. (Or sometimes we learn something and move on)

I will soon be 63 years old. Two years ago I was living an ordinary life, homeschooling, being a wife, mother and grandmother, never dreaming of all the new things I would learn in a very short time.  

Each new experience was like a new birth as I discovered and uncovered desires and talents that had been hidden.

In October of 2013, at the prompting and help from my daughter, Jamie, I began this blog. My beginnings were small and I mostly wrote for Five Minute Friday. I wondered if I'd have enough to say to continue it for very long. Since that time I have written over 260 blog posts and discovered a love of writing that I had all but forgotten. 

Shortly after that first post I joined an online writing group, took a short online class and participated in groups with prompts for poetry and blogging. One also included taking time for walks outside to observe and discover beauty in ordinary places. We were encouraged to use our cameras to capture what we found. 

Another daughter, who has her own Etsy shop, introduced me to art journaling. She showed me how to use mixed media to make different effects. I was hooked right away and have thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Those experiences helped me to discover that I love:
  • writing poetry and have written over 100 poems.
  •  mixing photography and words to make aesthetically pleasing blog posts. 
  • writing to encourage others.
  • expressing myself through art journaling.
  • using collage with cutout words to make found poetry

But that's not all

  • From the spring of 2013 to the spring of 2014 we had a couple of Nubian dairy goats. It was fun learning how to milk them and the fresh milk was a treat, but it was not something I could continue.
  • I started karate in March and have gone farther than I thought I would.
  • I have begun training for a 5K , and in my first two practices I surprised myself. This is huge for me because I am not a runner and have had absolutely no interest in running. But something inside me clicked when my daughter, Marianne, told me about it. I debated with myself for a few days, but finally decided to go for it.
I used to think anyone aged sixty was old.

I have since changed my thinking. I believe as the saying goes that "you are only as old as you think you are." None of these things I have told you would ever have happened if I had thought I was beyond the age of learning new things, that my life was fine the way it was. 

My life has been blessed far more and I have met so many wonderful people, because I was willing to step out of my comfortable position and stretch my vision. Sure, I have the usual aches and pains and creaks and groans, but I will keep going. I am not done yet! 

You are never too old to try new things or discover new talents. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Questions and Answers

Have you ever struggled with any of those questions? I know I have. Perhaps it is indicative of our lives that because we are ever growing and changing we have to revisit them periodically. We need to be sure we are anchored in the truth. In some areas when we gain more understanding our views may change.

But some things never change.

When we are born into the family of God by believing in Jesus through the faith that God gives us, we are secure in His love. Our faith may be sorely tested, but God is faithful.  He will go with us and will never leave us even when it seems like we are alone.  If we continually look to him we will eventually realize he is there and see his hand at work. I know, because I’ve been there many times.

Who am I?
I am a woman created in the image of God by the great Creator himself.  He loves me and  has made me his child, which gives me great worth. You, too have been created in his image. YOU ARE LOVED. You have great worth.

Why am I here?
My life should be at least a partial reflection of the essence of God. With his image stamped on me and his Holy Spirit living within me I am able to bring glory to God and demonstrate His existence in many ways. You can, too.

  • Because he is Creator, I am able to create. 
  • Because he is love, I am able to love.
  • Because he cares and encourages me, I am able to care for others.
  • Because he gives me peace, I can help others to find peace.

What is my purpose?
Purpose is a loaded word. It can apply to one overarching goal in life or to one simple task. Besides bringing glory to God, I believe part of my purpose is to encourage other people, especially other women. Most of us probably have an overall purpose, but also many smaller ones that ultimately point to our greater purpose.

What do I believe?

  • I believe there is one God who created us all. 
  • I believe in Jesus, his son, who is God incarnate. He died and was resurrected to pay for our sins since we could not do it for ourselves. 
  • I believe in the Holy Spirit, who was given to us to help bring us to God, teach us his ways, and enable us to do what he has called us to do every day of our lives. 
  • I believe God is a trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

How does my belief affect who I am and what I do?
Some may think that because I am a Christian my life will somehow be boring and dull with no excitement. They might think I have to follow a rigid set of rules with no room to try new things. Or maybe I just have to be one more link in the chain and  forget about all my desires. But nothing could be farther from the truth. My belief system is the source of my strength, because it is more than a system. 

It is a relationship with a Person.
It is my very foundation for life. It keeps me grounded and begs me to reach for the light. It enables me  to continue to grow, to stretch my wings and fly toward my fullest potential. Rather than squelch my creativity, it gives me a desire to explore and try new things, to discover who I  am and what ways I am uniquely me.

What does it mean to be me?
I’ve saved this question for last intentionally, because my being, my essence, draws from all that I’ve said before. Besides my calling as wife, mother and grandmother, I believe God has more in store for me. My job does not define me. I am more than what I do.

I am a person created in God’s image with many desires and abilities, some known, some yet undiscovered. 

I am a writer, an artist, a musician, a teacher, a lover, a baker, a photographer, a crocheter, a blue belt in karate, an encourager, a hostess, a finder of beauty in ordinary places, and much more. Now I don’t do all these things at once and I’m not an expert in any of them, but they all are part of me.

  • I want to BE fully present in whatever situation I find myself, the pleasant and the unpleasant alike, because God is there whether I see him or not. 
  • I want to BE fully aware of my surroundings, to take in the beauty as well as the ugliness.  
  • I want to BE fully engaged with my whole being - all my senses - to not miss any of the wonder of life that meets me every second of every day.

My challenge to each of us is that we will:
  • Look for the wonder in each day. 
  • Fulfill our tasks with the attitude that each one is important. 
  • Know that we are making a difference in our world.

Will you take the challenge with me? 

With God’s help we can learn to be grateful and look for the good. We cannot reach everyone, but we can brighten the lives of those in our circles.

Individually our offerings may seem like only a drop in the bucket, but collectively we can make a big splash!

I’m linking up with Erika Shirk and #wholemama. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve joined, but in a way I’ve combined the prompts from the past three weeks which were the words, be, purpose and belief.

I'm also linking up with Kelly Balarie's #raralinkup and Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart. and Lisha Epperson's #GiveMeGrace and Janis Cox's Sunday Stillness and Barbie Swihart's Weekend Whispers.

***All photos and artwork are my own***